May 6, 2019
New Yorkers protest Amazon providing ICE with tech
by Liv Lansdale
This past May Day, New York Communities for Change (NYCC), a coalition of low income communities of color, took over Amazon’s corporate offices in midtown to protest the company’s involvement with the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The petition they’ve since launched on Daily Kos indicts Amazon for “play[ing] a key role in this crisis by providing the technological backbone for ICE’s operations to track, identify, and hunt down immigrants.”
Indeed, The Washington Post reported nearly a year ago that Amazon provides cloud hosting services for Palantir, Peter Thiel’s data analysis firm, which powers ICE’s detention and deportation programs (yes, we are painfully aware that Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post).
Even more worrisome than the Amazon-ICE-Palantir connection is Amazon’s eagerness to sell ICE facial recognition technology. Last October the tech behemoth met with ICE officials to pitch a product that would empower it to do essentially all the evils the NYCC lists in the May Day petition. Amazon has dubbed its face-scanning platform “Rekognition,” really clinching its status as the closest thing we have to an IRL ACME Corp.
While we at Melville House take special relish in calling out Amazon’s many misdeeds, it should be noted that the company is hardly the only household-name profiting off of state-sanctioned domestic terrorism. Microsoft has a $20 million contract with ICE; Thomson Reuters’s contracts with ICE amount to $30 million; Motorola Solutions’s total $13.3 million; and Hewlett-Packard’s total $75 million, a particularly mind-boggling number as they could be allocating those funds to, say, developing their first printer that actually f***ing works.
It’s a bleak landscape, and there’s not much silver lining to report. For now, we applaud the NYCC and encourage you to sign their petition.
Liv Lansdale (@liv_actually) walks dogs in Brooklyn and is a regular contributor to MobyLives.